A/N: Needed a distraction, simple as. Kingdom Hearts had piqued my intrigue and creativity for the first time in a good while.
In the hallowed times long since passed, an ancient power existed, giving rise to all things, and keeping serenity and peace paramount within its warmth and gentle embrace. This power, in time, came to be known as Light. Light was powerful and revered by all, and scarcely bid pleasantries with those who doubted its power. However, with time, Light became nothing but a shell of itself, and it became a mere power, bought and traded by those who practiced the ancient ways, known as magic.
Light was abused by these people, sought as a way to conquer and enslave. This was not what Light was bore for, and so as punishment, it bore a twin, known as the Dark. It took all shape and form imaginable, and hid within the once-innocent shadows, awaiting its time, but it found its place within the savage respite the Light had found – the heart of the living.
They both passed on through the ages, but now, only two remain with the powers in their hearts. Only two, who have claimed defenders of their own, preparing throughout the ages without realising for the battle that must be waged between two that ought not exist at once.
We are the chains that hold progress still.
But without us, they can't live!
You're right. But their choice is made.
The Light inside me is what their choice ought to be… everyone has to choose Light in the end!
Kari, the Light has failed before. The Light is what has caused this. Now it is my turn to set things straight.
But you can't do this! Please!
Time itself has abandoned us now. I must do what you cannot. You're begging only delays the fate we both share, but only one of us can have.
Who are you, really?
Her eyes opened wide, and she was herself once again. Lost in the confines of her mind, the light of the sun beating down upon them all was too much, and she had to shield her face. It allowed her to wipe the sweat from her face discreetly.
'Mm?' she put as sweetly as she could, despite herself. Davis seemed completely at a loss as to what she had been daydreaming about, probably as it was the third time she had done it that day alone. 'Sorry, were you saying something?'
'I was asking you what was wrong,' he put flatly. 'This is the big day of the year, y'know. I was a little worried's all.'
'Sorry, Davis, everyone… I think I picked a bad time to feel a little sick.'
'Don't worry about it,' Tai reassured her brightly, patting her on the shoulder and smiling broadly. 'Probably that cold going around – remember mom got it this morning? Nearly sneezed into the eggs! Couldn't tell if dad was worried about her or trusting what he was eating!'
'Tai,' Sora moaned jokingly, 'really?'
Kari and the others laughed. Tai was always the leader of the group in all things, be it sports, saving two worlds, handling their problems or just generally being there for whatever they needed him for, and still he found time to try for humour. She had always seen Tai as the perfect big brother for this, and the fact that he seemed so collected.
They had all gathered there, as they had done for two years since the fall of the dark entity known as MaloMyotismon. Since then, they had been separated from their fated protectorate, the Digital World, where creatures known as Digimon live in peace thanks to the sacrifice they made for them, having to surrender their partners when the gates sealed up globally.
That had hit them all hard, but in two years they had toughened and remembered the good times with their lost friends, rather than the sadness that followed their journey's end.
In Odaiba Park, they had been extremely sneaky, as Kari remembered, by entering days after the separation when everyone was still celebrating the Digimon's unexplained arrival, rampage and disappearance and planted a tree seed, a courtesy of a grateful Gennai, their friend and carer of the Digital World.
It had been the seed of a Cherrymon, and Kari remembered what their friend had said about it, that it would grow tall and strong in little time, and it would resist all attempts to uproot it, giving them a constant mark that they had done their part admirably, and that time did not touch some memories.
For the second time, the group formerly known as Digidestined were gathered around the sprouting tree, which was indeed growing faster than a normal tree, but was still only to around knee-height. For an hour, they had talked of the lost times, but they had all trailed off toward the final battle for two worlds, as the all too fresh feelings of leaving their partners for good was too much. Even the safety and continued existence of the worlds just wasn't enough to soothe the pain Kari still felt in her heart for that cat partner of hers.
Not one person at her school had come close to matching her level of friendship with Gatomon. Not Yolei, not Cody, not TK and certainly not Davis, who was a little nosy to be treated as close as her other friends, not that she would tell him that – it would break him, and she knew it.
'Y'know what I miss?' Davis's voice came to her on this thought, and she realised where she was in the circle of friends massed around the growing tree once more. 'Veemon was cool an' all, but when he became Flamedramon or Raidramon… well, it was just awesome!'
Mimi made a small sniff, and Matt instantly chided, 'Smooth move, genius.'
'Oh… er… sorry, Mimi.'
'Hey, come on now,' Sora complained, her boyfriend's shoulders slouching at her call. 'Be nice. It's not Davis's fault, you know.'
'I know that,' Matt grumbled, his steely blue eyes looking at the small tree between them all. 'Gabumon and the others would've told me the same thing, and they'd be right. But it's not been easy. We all know that, so why talk about it?'
'Because we can't move on with our lives if we just bite each other's heads off instead of talking about it,' she countered smartly, earning a defeated grunt. 'C'mon, guys, we were all awkward about it last year. Isn't two years enough to talk about it?'
Nobody met her searching eyes, and Kari herself looked away in Matt's brother's direction, a usual habit she had picked up from her first days in the Digital World. But there was no strength to be shared, only a pained look from the stinging loss of his own friend.
'I guess not,' Tai said, changing the subject and lifting Kari's spirits immediately. 'How's school treating you guys? I haven't really bothered that much with that stuff… um… how old are you all, anyway?'
'Tai!' Kari scolded, feeling heat creep up her neck.
'It's a way to start a conversation!'
'Ahem,' Ken cleared his throat to cut in, but did it in his ever-so-polite manner that would go unnoticed by anyone but them. 'Well, I just turned fourteen. Yolei did about a month ago and Davis should be coming up soon. Cody, how old are you?'
The short boy's eyes went wide. Kari stopped herself chuckling – he would always think that they would forget about him, and his reaction was always the same.
'Oh, I'm twelve now,' he mumbled.
'Oh, so you'll be… what is it?'
'Junior high,' Matt pinched the bridge of his nose irritably. Tai snapped his fingers appreciatively. 'That cold… I think I'm getting it like Kari is.'
'I'm fine, really.'
She didn't like to lie, but when others worried about her more than themselves, as Tai had proven in their adventures, she would naturally do it, and then feel terrible in silence for it. She looked about the group, hoping no one had seen, Joe looking suspicious but otherwise indifferent to her lie. She knew he could keep a secret, being the oldest of them all and the most trusting.
Perhaps that was why Mimi was looking at him every now and again. Joe had become a valued listener to her problems, and Kari felt that there was more to it that nervous Joe hadn't noticed yet. It made her happy that they were at least trying to move on with their lives, in some small way, at least.
'Are you alright?' Sora leaned in toward Matt's face, and Kari averted her eyes, feeling odd at the sight. 'You look a little pale.'
'I have a goddess in front of me,' he said coolly. 'Course I'd be pale.'
Sora made a funny noise, like a hiccup. She must have had a flush worse than Kari did, and that would make her as red as her fiery hair and often her temper, things which Kari, Yolei and Mimi saw as the strength of the girls in the group; unspoken though it was, Sora was the second mother to them all in a sense.
When she finally dared, Kari turned back, feeling a knot twist inside of her; Matt and Sora were hugging tightly, and she was not the only one pretending to be interested in the surroundings. Why her eyes went directly to Tai wasn't a secret, but he seemed to be controlling himself well enough; she was the only one he had told, after all. It wouldn't be good to lunge at Matt.
'I love you,' she heard Sora whisper.
'I love you too.'
She had definitely heard that – a small croak of agony in his whisper back. It was small, but she would notice it anywhere; Wizardmon, a Digimon she owed a life debt to, had the same note in his voice when he asked how she and Gatomon were instead of telling them his pains and fears and regrets before he had died for them.
Such a small, inconsequential thing, and yet that note was burned into her mind forever. She noticed it without trying, and she watched Matt bury Sora's head gently against his shoulder, his face screwing up in silent pain while the others pretended to be elsewhere.
Kari shivered and spun around to look behind her, but nothing stood behind where she was sat apart from the pavement and road in the distance, out of the park. Many with facemasks walked on their own way, so where had she heard-?
Davis had gotten to a knee by the time she had looked back at him, and this time he looked in a pressing mood.
'What's wrong? C'mon, you can tell me.'
'Tell us,' TK input jocularly. 'What's with the look, Davis?'
'You can tell me an' by extension us.'
'Close enough, I suppose.'
'It's been such a long time since we've seen you, Mimi!'
Yolie, being as dense as possibly can be, changed the subject entirely, rolling her eyes at Davis and not TK. Kari always put this down to her disliking him, but the same could be said for Sora and Tai, and yet they were closer than any of the others might have suspected.
'I know, right?' Mimi clapped her hands together and cast them to indicate all of them. 'I got mom and dad's permission to come a couple of days ago! They were being so picky, saying that I was nearly killed here by the DarkTyrannomon and saying it was for my own good!' she pouted, her cheeks puffing up. 'I mean, I get it but still, you're all my friends!'
'They were just worried about you, Mimi,' Izzy told her, speaking up for the first time. Kari had noticed that he had been lost in thought, staring at the developing tree between them.
'I know they are! But I'm sixteen now! I really don't see the problem!'
'A sixteen year old facing a giant dinosaur isn't exactly a fair match, Izzy. Mimi would've messed him up.'
It was uncommon for Matt to make a joke, but when he did, it had a dark tone to it that only demanded unnerved giggles and Mimi to go as red as Sora was. Kari noted his eyes getting a little unfocussed, and so he hid away behind his palm.
'I think I'll have to cut it short for now, guys,' he said quietly, lifting himself to his feet. 'I'll see you for the meal later. It'll be on me.'
'You'll regret that,' Kari couldn't help herself, 'Tai can eat all of Japan's food himself.'
She could feel his glare at the side of her head, but basked in the laughs she was getting from them all, a distraction from the vengeful brother across from her.
'I think I'll do just fine, Kari,' the blonde smiled and then regarded TK, 'and I'm trusting you to manage it this time.'
Kari narrowed her eyes in confusion; trust TK with what? Why was his face red?
Hours dragged on with the stories of the Digital World as their hooks, and they knew it had been a good anniversary of the day they had separated Earth and its digital counterpart. Kari was sure that her heart couldn't feel lighter with happiness. Everyone had been there.
The year before had not been the same, what with Joe and Izzy cancelling last minute for their own reasons, Joe taking his exams for university and having to study, and Izzy saying he had discovered something of interest in his crest, although he later said he found nothing at all important.
Kari stood in the middle of her room, fixated on the two dresses laid carefully atop her bed and lost in wonder and deliberation. One was white as snow with glittering sequins, the other black as the night sky in winter. It had been ten minutes since she had begun, and she was no closer to a decision than before.
The wooden floor had actually been cold when she had stepped inside in cold February winds outside, but now her feet were welcomed by heat from her time spent in one place. She had not even drawn the curtain over the door to the terrace, the lights in the surrounding apartment buildings flashing on themselves as time went on without her.
There was a soft rapping at her door, and through it entered her mother, who in her eyes was the most beautiful and clever mother there ever was beyond compare. She had that talent of seeing through Kari without issue or words, and one glance to the dresses and she nodded, understanding.
'The white one,' she said quickly, sighing. 'Honestly, I thought you were doing your homework or something, but you've been here so long for this.'
'Mom, I told you – Tai and I are going to the dinner – the anniversary, remember?'
Her mother's face fell.
'Oh… of course, that… are you sure you want to, how do I put this… remember all that?'
A hot prickle came inside of Kari's throat.
'That madness was beyond me, Kari…' she whispered. 'I'm still being taxed for repairs for the first and second time those monsters appeared. And I have heard you when you're having a nightmare.'
'What do you mean, mom?'
'"Wizardmon", was it?'
Kari's heart sank like a stone, the only sound separating her room from like a mausoleum being her mother's sickly cough.
'Kari, I think enough's enough, don't you? Tai as well; you two need to focus on your homework, not monsters that destroyed our home years ago. He's due for college with his soccer scholarship and you're bound for exams soon enough.'
She had never heard such firmness in her mother's voice before. She pretended to look away, defeated, but smiled to herself, knowing her mother well enough to see through a hazy mind set, seeing as she had been laid down much of the day.
'Alright mom,' she said lightly, 'I'll start studying year-round. But today is special.'
'You were right,' Kari said, picking up and holding the white dress up for inspection, 'white suits me, actually.'
The door closed behind her, and she could do nothing but blink back at it in surprise; was her mother angry?
The door opened again, and through it came Tai's unruly hair and a cheesy grin he always got whenever (on the rare occasion) their mother was angry with her, not him.
'It's nothing. I'll be out in a few minutes, all right?'
And like an animation, his head crept back behind the door slowly and he shut it, leaving Kari in peace to change into her dress.
Minutes later, she emerged with a floating sensation in the pit of her stomach – she had only worn a dress once before to her uncle's wedding long ago, and even then, she had hated the idea of having such a thing on. Perhaps it was the TV shows that were on at weekends, but she always saw dresses as ways to get attention, and not the good kind, if the realm of TV was telling true.
The first to get a glimpse was Tai, whose eyes immediately fell to her legs, which were a little exposed, the white confines of her dress stopping short of the top of her knee. On instinct, she tried to pull it downward, hopefully stretching it a little more – her face grew warmer each second she felt it resist, and Tai was not looking any happier.
'Kari, that's a… um… that's a nice dress?'
'I haven't worn one, but I bought them in case – wait, what's that supposed to mean?'
She hadn't meant to shout, Miko the cat ceasing her pawing at the couch to look back. She felt so embarrassed it was a wonder steam didn't erupt from her ears.
Tai shrugged, and Kari envied his ability to just wear a black suit and tie, the very same thing he had taken to prom with some school friend called Kirino. 'Better than saying 'nice shirt', isn't it?'
Not one for violence, Kari just glared daggers at him and his smile, resisting the urge to throw the couch at him not because it was impossible for her, but because she was too nice to try it.
'C'mon, Davis's already here.'
She couldn't help but sigh into her palm, awkwardness forgotten. She kept hidden behind her hand, waiting for her face to cool down when Tai's footsteps left and then doubled up.
'Whoa! I-I… uh… nice legs, Kari!'
'Smooth as Togemon, Davis.'
Kari felt ready to die at that moment if it meant escape, and she hid behind her palm a little while longer.
The restaurant had been lavish, but that seemed common of any place that would be so original as to serve Indian foods of all things in Japan. It had recently opened in Odaiba, maybe as a little test for expansionism of a company, or just as a family business testing newer waters abroad. She could care less, her tongue feeling burned for lack of preparation in taking a large bite of curry. It seemed the stuff of legend and mystery in Japan from far away, and it wasn't hard to see why; curry could be a deadly weapon against Myotismon himself judging by her gained experience of it.
After deciding not to trust foreign foods for a while and letting her tongue cool down, she joined in the merriment and chatter of the group. Much of it was the boys awkwardly confessing how the girls all looked stunning in their dresses; although Tai had the misfortune of saying they looked so much different than they did when they first began their adventure.
Mimi had stunned Kari by taking this as a slight against her looks and was currently scolding Tai, her big brother looking at a rare loss for words.
'Alright, alright! I get the point, Mimi!'
'Hmph,' she huffed, folding her arms and looking away from him – curiously in Joe's direction, Kari couldn't help but notice.
'It's getting late for me,' Cody spoke up calmly, getting everyone's attention. 'Should we call it a night?'
'Cody, we still have to hang around the tree, remember?'
He looked to Sora, respect evident on the young boy's face.
'Well, I suppose if we're quick about it… I'm visiting dad's grave tomorrow morning, so I'd like to be early in, if at all possible.'
'You'll be back with time to spare,' she smiled, 'me and Matt just had a thought that we'd all talk about our Digimon instead of avoiding the subject.'
Cody shifted uncertainly in his seat, 'I'm not so sure… Armadillomon didn't leave with a long goodbye, and I've always felt a little uneasy because of it.'
Kari took notice of the silence that fell and clapped her hands together, 'I think it's a great idea!' she turned to Davis, not liking that it was the only way, 'Don't you?'
He straightened up at once, grinning stupidly.
'Y-yeah, I like it! Cody, c'mon!'
'Hey, Ken and I have studying to do tomorrow!'
Davis blinked between Yolei, who had that look that scared Kari a little, and then at Ken, who nodded without meeting his eyes. He looked back to her closest friend in the group.
'No one asked your opinion, Yolei.'
She flared up angrily, 'WHAT DID YOU SAY?'
Perhaps too late, but she noticed that every customer, waiter and even a passer-by outside the window were looking directly at her, heckled by her shouting.
Kari sunk into her seat, wishing dearly that she could melt into it for a moment while her friend sank into her own. Davis was chuckling to himself.
'Shut up,' Yolei grumbled, but he did not. 'I said shut up!'
'Careful now – don't blow your stack,' Matt said in a muffled tone, his mouth hidden by his steepled fingers. 'Not any more, at least.'
Yolei went as red as her dress, and everyone giggled uneasily, the customers around them slow to look away and eat once more. One waiter was slowest of all to pretend he had forgotten, and Kari could see why; he had been covered with the water from the glass he was picking up.
'I'm going to miss this,' Joe laughed sadly, his smile shaky.
'What d'you mean?' Davis chuckled, wiping a tear from his eye. 'Miss what?'
'Well, next year I'll be pretty much living at university and I won't make it to the next anniversary,' he was explaining, the laughter fading into nothingness. 'Or the year after that, to be perfectly honest. After that, I'm not even sure I can come see you guys at all, and when I graduate, I'll probably move to Tokyo itself – they have a need of more doctors in that city.'
'You can still see us,' Mimi said bracingly, though Kari heard that familiar undertone of pain she was so tuned to hearing. 'You can see me on your weeks off, can't you?'
He smiled at her, 'Well, I want to follow in my dad's sort of path to do that. He was a heart surgeon and consultant to boot, but he eventually came here to open a private clinic. If I do that, then I can attend the anniversaries and things, but that would take at least ten good years after I graduate with honours, like he did.'
'Can't you do what your brother's doing now?' Ken asked quietly.
'He told me that working in Africa is a lot of work with little reward, but he said it was bad because once you're there, and you see how bad it is, you can't bring yourself to leave. It'd be pretty much the same thing as never seeing you guys.'
'Um… if we're being honest…' everyone turned to Ken, colour rising to his face slightly. 'I'm moving away soon… at least, my mom's thinking about it – she says that those kidnappings Oikawa did worried her, and dad didn't really agree or disagree, so…'
'Ken?' Yolei sounded mortally wounded, and inched closer to him in her seat. 'Are you really leaving?'
'Maybe… I only told Davis since he pressed me, but he said he'd keep it between us.'
Kari sensed it, like lightning flashing across the table from Yolei's eyes into Davis's, the former leader of the newer Digidestined reeling in his seat, and she didn't blame him; Yolei looked like a demon, ready to pitch a fit.
'You knew, but you didn't tell me?'
'I gave him my word, Yolei!'
'That's rich; an idiot like you saying something mature like that!'
Kari saw Davis straighten up in his chair, a worrying look of dark hate in his eyes.
'What's your problem, you think that you can't get off your high horse and take a train to see him like a normal person would?'
'What's that supposed to mean?'
'It means that you're thinking like an idiot would!'
'"Birds of a feather flock together"!'
Matt was leaning into the table in the corner of Kari's eyes, looking calmest of everyone present.
'First, you just insulted yourself and him, and second, everyone's looking at us.'
Yolei had flared up completely, and now left her chair, Ken's weak protests doing nothing to calm her, and even less good as Davis met her in standing tall, looking irate. Even taller was Matt, his pale, sickly complexion mended by red fury, Sora tugging at his sleeve.
'What did you just say to me?' Matt hissed, the customers turning around to see the three.
'I told you to shut up – this is between me and him!'
'There's nothing between me and you, you're just out of your mind!'
'I dare you to say that again!'
'You – Are – Out – Of – Your – Mind – Yolei!'
'Stop it, both of you,' Mimi cried, appearing to be tempting the option to stand up herself. 'And Matt, just calm down!'
'Don't tell me to calm down, princess.'
'Matt!' Sora and Mimi screeched at once, getting to their feet, Joe pulled up by Mimi's surprising strength while he was trying to pull her back down by her shoulders.
Kari's mind seemed to have jammed, and all she could manage to do was flash a look to TK, looking for some sign of strength she could use, arguing ensuing above her. She had seen it coming, but not in the middle of a restaurant – everyone had wanted someone to lash out at for the past two painful years, and today of all days – she felt foolish for not seeing it.
Her eyes began to mist, and she knew she was about to cry, her friends fighting above her.
'Davis, why don't you just listen to me, be the bigger man and sit down while Yolei cools it?' Tai joined in, but his strength as a leader was quickly snapped at by Sora of all people, and he became wounded and angry, and the rowing escalated. 'What d'you mean "mature like Matt"? Sora, he's the dunce who got involved!'
'Don't talk about him like that!'
'I'll talk about him however I like, Love-Girl!'
Sora's face was clouded in Kari's eyes, but when she chanced a look, the girl had turned as red as her hair, throwing insults in Tai's direction which he returned in kind. Only TK, Cody, Ken and technically Joe, who tried to diffuse the situation and was keeping his head, joined Kari in not lashing out with two years of pent up pain and frustration. She felt mad at the others.
And then she felt terrible for thinking so, tears running down her face. Cracks from two years were widening before her, and nobody seemed to notice anyone around them.
'DAVIS, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!'
'SHUT IT! JUST TALK TO KEN ALREADY AND QUIT WIMPING OUT OVER IT!'
'DAVIS!' Yolei squealed angrily, and the arguing raised even more.
Kari felt herself snap inside like a tender branch, and at once she slammed her hands down as hard as she could, and then she cried, 'EVERYONE, BREAK IT UP!'
Everyone blinked in surprise of her, but then they just squinted, and the girls lifted their hands before their eyes, trying to look down to Kari beyond any shame, but something else entirely – their faces became paler, as did their suits and dresses…
Light took them all, and Kari felt beyond her surprise its warmth and its weightlessness – the restaurant faded about them, but then it became bitterly cold. Everyone was screaming, and soon she realised why she was joining them; the light was smothered by darkness, and their bodies twisted and fell down into the deepest pit, into cold unlike any she had experienced before, and just before everyone vanished into the blackness, Kari saw them dragged by arms of the dark in different directions, and before she could so much as cry out, clueless of what else may be done, the dark took her and smothered her.